"And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.
And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. "
O Lord, have mercy on us. R.
We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for the wood of the holy cross You have redeemed the world.
As they part for the last time on the shores of Middle Earth, Gandalf turns to the hobbits who remain and says: “I will not say, Do not weep, for not all tears are evil.” You have perhaps cried those tears when you have had to say farewell to someone you deeply loved. Tears can testify to the depth of love.
Today’s Passion reading ends in tears. Peter’s tears. And what exactly prompted them? It was not his denial of Jesus. It was not his failure, to which he seems almost bewilderingly blind. What prompted them was the sound of the rooster, welcoming a dawn that had not yet begun to break, and with that sound a memory. Words that stirred in his heart and that he could hear in his mind and recall with clarity. Words we read together last week. His master saying: Amen, I tell you, Peter, this very night before the rooster crows twice you will deny me.
It was the words of Jesus operative still in his heart and mind that brought him to tears. Tears over how he had fallen and done exactly what he said he would never do, even if all the others did. Tears of shame. Tears of godly grief. Tears of repentance. These tears are not evil either.
In the Church’s prayers and hymns, they are mentioned so very often. O mensch bewein dein Sünde groß, O man cry over your great sin, as at the end of the St. Matthew Passion of Bach. Or from our Synod’s first hymnal: “Oh, that I might sufficient tears be shedding! O ye mine eyes, your bitter floods be spreading, And thou mine heart, no longer stone resemble. Oh, weep and tremble” Walther’s Hymnal 82. Or in the lovely hymn for Good Friday: O darkest woe, Ye tears forth flow! Hath earth so sad a wonder? God the Father’s only Son Now is buried yonder. LSB 448 And these tears are never something that we have to work up on our own like an actor on a stage. They come always as a gift. And quite often they come unexpectedly. I don’t think Peter thought he was going to burst into tears. It was a gracious gift that flowed to him from the word of Jesus that the rooster called to his mind. And because he heard those words with his own ears, maybe he remembered also something in the way Jesus said them.
I know it’s rather naughty to switch Gospels, but something I think we often overlook. Those beautiful words from John 14? “Let not your hearts be troubled…” Do you realize what immediately preceded them? Jesus said to him, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times… (And then immediately) Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Trust in God and trust also in Me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am there you may be also.” John 14
And Peter remembered the word that Jesus spoke to him. And it brought him to tears. I wonder if he remembered also the words that only John has recorded for us. Then Peter’s tears of regret, are also tears of shame that he had denied the one who would not deny him, who was suffering precisely to prepare a place for him and them all and us too. Who loved him. Whose love was stronger than Peter’s denial and Peter’s sin and stronger than any denial or sin of yours too. He is at work in His Passion to provide a place for us: a place in His heart where we can live in Him forevermore.
Not all tears are evil. O Jesus, kind master, grant us all the gift of tears that we may weep over our great sin and weep even more over Your unfathomable and unchanging love.
We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You for the wood of the holy cross You have redeemed the world! Amen.